max fisher

Max Fisher: NYT/Al-Qaeda propagandist.
I took time out from reading the news on the war on Syria to read the latest piece of fiction in the New York Times, this one woven together by Max Fisher, who provocatively titled it "Russia's Brutal Bombing of Aleppo May Be Calculated, and It May Be Working".

Max was just getting warmed up with the title, launching into a full-frontal assault on Russia, accusing it of deliberately murdering civilians in Aleppo in order to discredit the so-called opposition, scuttle the last remaining hopes of diplomacy, and, if not win the war, then at least prolong it endlessly.

Fisher then takes us on his magic carpet ride of delusion, telling us that so-called "moderate" rebels have had to turn to extremists or starve and that the US has genuinely tried to convince these moderates to separate from the extremists:
The northern Syrian city is one of the few remaining strongholds for non-jihadist rebel groups. But months of siege forced them into a terrible choice: turn to extremists for help, or starve. It was no choice at all, and groups such as the jihadist-linked Ahrar al-Sham helped briefly break the siege in August...

The United States has tried to counteract this by persuading rebels to reject jihadists, in part by promising support for the opposition and by targeting jihadist militants.
Fisher is well advised not to elaborate on who the rebel groups are who control east Aleppo, as it will reveal it is the Jihadist hardliners who run the show there.

The moderate myth has its foundations in the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Its halcyon days are far behind, and there are doubts as to whether the group even exists anymore. Islamist groups have borrowed its moniker when they want to present to the outside world as moderates fighting for the freedom of Syrians.

The FSA has its hands covered in blood, along with its Islamist allies. Right now in Aleppo, if it is a functioning force, it is allied with extremists who are intensely bombing west Aleppo, causing numerous deaths and injuries, none of which Fisher and his MSM friends ever bother covering.

Back in April, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Colonel Steve Warren let the cat out of the bag by saying: "That said, it's primarily al-Nusra who holds Aleppo, and of course, al-Nusra is not part of the cessation of hostilities."

The US State Department scrambled to discredit Warren, making the laughable claim that Al-Nusra is not the dominant rebel force in Aleppo. To admit Al-Nusra, now rebranded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), was a dominant force in Aleppo would undermine U.S. support for rebels there and increase the pressure on the U.S. to cooperate with Russia in ridding the city of the terrorists that have besieged it since 2012. Warren reflected the opinion of Russia's military spokesman, Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi, who earlier in April said that 8,000 Al-Nusra militants were amassing around Aleppo and preparing to cut off the city's main road to Syria's capital, Damascus.

JFS along with the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham are part of the Jaysh al-Fatah coalition, which has a strong presence in Aleppo. Fisher claims that the moderates are drawn to Ahrar al-Sham through the need to survive, a blatantly false claim. Jaysh al-Fatah formed in Idlib in 2015, quickly taking control of the province. It expanded into Aleppo, dramatically capturing Khan Touman, creating major new problems for the Syrian government trying to regain control of Aleppo. As its name suggests - "army of conquest" - it is not desperately defending civilians and trying to survive under a barrage of Russian and Syrian bombs. It is an Islamist coalition backed by foreign powers, intent on expanding control from Idlib to Aleppo.

The U.S. has been unable or unwilling to separate the so-called moderates from JFS, a key element of the failed ceasefire. Ahrar al-Sham, one of the largest forces in Syria, immediately rejected the ceasefire, stating they would not break with "their comrades in arms" from JFS. Over 20 other opposition groups also rejected the ceasefire, among them groups fighting in the Fatah Halab coalition in Aleppo such as the notorious Nour al-Din al-Zenki. These groups are now consolidating their alliance with JFS, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Mike Whitney, writing for CounterPunch, said the U.S. has no way of separating "moderates" from extremists, compounded by the fact that the Pentagon had no intention of complying with the ceasefire - unleashing its deadly assault against Syrian troops in Deir ez-Zor days later. Whitney stated that Washington will support JFS as long as it continues to act in ways that match Washington's strategic objectives, or as he quotes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as saying, "the United States doesn't have the will to work against al-Nusra or ISIS, because they believe that this is a card they can use for their own agenda."

Moscow has been endlessly patient with Washington, which claims to be in control of the rebels, and has backed off, only to see the rebel groups rearm and reject the ceasefire. The so-called moderates had their opportunity, as did the Pentagon. Their sabotage means they are now bearing the consequences.

Fisher, like so many Western journalists, has abdicated the responsibility of reporting on the ground to the so-called independent White Helmets and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). The vivid, horrifying reports of bombed hospitals and schools, complete with images of children pulled from the rubble, is coming from these sources. Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett and Rick Sterling have all exposed the White Helmets as a U.S./UK intelligence-created and -funded organisation fully embedded with Al-Qaeda in Syria. SOHR is run out of a house in Coventry, England, by a certain Abdul Rahman who openly professes to be a member of the Syrian opposition, thus eliminating him as an objective information source.

Tony Cartalucci neatly summed up the sheer lunacy in trusting SOHR as a reliable barometer of facts on the ground in Syria:
Clearly for real journalists, Abdulrahman is a useless, utterly compromised source of information who has every reason to twist reality to suit his admittedly politically-motivated agenda of overthrowing the Syrian government. However, for a propagandist, he is a goldmine. That is why despite the overt conflict of interests, the lack of credibility, the obvious disadvantage of being nearly 3,000 miles away from the alleged subject of his "observations," or the fact that a single man is ludicrously calling himself a "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights" in the first place, the Western media still eagerly laps up his constant torrent of disinformation.
Fisher, among others in groupthinkistan media, is clearly not a "real" journalist, but rather the servant of a campaign of vilification of Russia dangerously escalating to levels reminiscent of the fever-pitch hysteria against the former Yugoslavia and Libya. We all know how that ended up.

The divide and conquer strategy in the form of propagating the Sunni/Shia divide is utilised by Fisher to distort the battle for hearts and minds in Aleppo.
That legitimacy has been weakened by years of killing civilians, and by the government's strategy of fostering sectarianism, which leaves it with little support among the country's majority Sunni population. As long as non-jihadist Sunni Arab rebels are on the battlefield, they can credibly claim to better represent Syrians. This leaves the Syrian leadership, which is dominated by the Alawite religious minority, vulnerable to any peace deal or military intervention that would install a rebel government in its place ...

indigenous forces rely on the local population, which gives them money, food, shelter, intelligence and recruits. Rebels, including Syria's, are only as strong as their local support.
Fisher is perhaps not cognizant of the fact that the Syrian Army is dominated by Sunnis, naturally enough in a country where 75% of the population are Sunni Muslim. If the government's strategy was "fostering sectarianism," the army would not have been able to hold together against overwhelming odds to the point that it is on the verge of liberating Aleppo. The sectarianism of Fisher and those of his ilk is a myth, plain and simple.

The fact that the people of Aleppo never wanted the rebels, that Sunni and Shia are combining to cleanse east Aleppo of the jihadis and the foreign composition of much of the opposition, is highlighted in the following Twitter exchange:

Aleppo, once the commercial centre of Syria, did not see the unrest of other parts of Syria back in 2011. Not surprisingly, when rebel forces invaded and took over parts of the city in 2012 they were not warmly welcomed. The "local support" Fisher alludes to has not materialised. A Free Syrian Army commander said at the time, "Around 70% of Aleppo city is with the regime. It has always been that way." Two points stand out here. One is that this is likely a conservative underestimation of support for the government. The other is that clearly there was no desire among the local population for the foreign-sponsored insurgency.

Things haven't improved for the rebels in the popularity stakes since then. An ORB International survey from 2014 makes depressing reading for the poor rebels relying on money, food and shelter - as Fisher portrays them. The survey found:
With current attention on ISIS, just 4% of the country said they best represented the interests and aspirations of the Syrian people, although in ISIS controlled Al Raqqah this increases to 24%. Nationally 9% mention the Free Syrian Army, with 9% also mentioning the Jabhat al-Nusra, increasing to 21% in Idlib.
The rebels did their cause even more damage during the presidential elections of 2014. The elections certainly had flaws in being conducted during a time of war, with only three candidates running and the opposition boycott; but the brutal actions of the rebels in Aleppo were designed to stop people voting.

Edward Dark explains how the rebels presented their credentials on democratic aspirations, much vaunted among the U.S., NATO, the Gulf States and the mainstream media, but ridiculed by any serious analyst:
As is tragically only too common, Aleppo has borne the brunt of rebel anger, as shells and rockets fired from their positions in the east of the city fell heavy as rain in the days leading up to the vote, and continue to do so as I write this and as the voting gets under way. The mayhem and slaughter is unprecedented in the regime areas as hundreds of shells left no neighborhood unmolested. Streets became deserted as people stayed indoors and shops closed, hoping to avoid random death from above. Of course, dozens were not so lucky, and the civilian death toll from just two days of rebel shelling stood at over 50, with scores more wounded and large areas devastated, especially in the Midan neighborhood, an Armenian quarter adjacent to the Bustan al-Basha rebel stronghold. The scenes of death and carnage, especially among children, were so shocking and horrific that even staunchly pro-opposition groups had to speak out against them and demand they stop.

Yet, the bombs ceaselessly continue to fall, claiming even more lives as students attended exams at colleges and schools where ballot boxes were placed, and civil servants were herded from work to polling stations, many against their will but fearing reprisal if they refused to go. Needless to say, the vote is riddled with irregularities and violations, such as multiple voting and improper ID checks, but that is the least of the people's imminent worries. In many cases, regime loyalists braved the danger and went out to vote to spite the rebels, but many people did not, and the turnout is understandably low in Aleppo.
Roll forward to 2016 and we have rebels threatening civilians who planned to leave through the corridors set up by the Syrian government and Russia to enable them to safely leave the conflict zone. The "local support" Fisher believes the rebels have was certainly not reciprocated when they rejected the ceasefire and threatened the safe passage of humanitarian aid into east Aleppo. To erode any semblance of good will even further, the so-called moderate rebels, apparently in retaliation for strikes which damaged water supplies in east Aleppo, turned off the water supply to 1.5 million people in west Aleppo, threatening a humanitarian catastrophe.

Fisher continues the theme of the claim of no government support in Aleppo and intimates an agenda of ethnic cleansing, a position wholly absent of any evidence, but which, like the rest of the article, is a hysterical call for direct U.S. military intervention, risking military conflict with Russia and Syria:
The Syrian government does need popular support to survive, but it draws that from elsewhere in the country and had already functionally destroyed its support in rebel-controlled eastern Aleppo.
The first thing that stands out here is that Fisher admits that Assad enjoys popular support. The 2016 elections proved to be a real thorn in the side of Fisher's sectarian divide narrative. Far from being minority Alawite dominated, the results reflected the demographics of the various governorates. Reflecting these demographics, Sunnis won most seats, but Christians and Shi'ites were able to win seats as well. Assad's ruling Ba'ath party won 200 of the 250 seats, with a 58% turnout of eligible voters, a very high number considering the country is ravaged by war.

In Aleppo, Sunnis won over 80% of the seats. Fisher asserts Assad has a "strategy of fostering sectarianism, which leaves it with little support among the country's majority Sunni population." Contrary to Fisher's view, residents of Aleppo did not welcome the rebels and are not bunkered down in solidarity with them under the present siege. 600,000 of them fled from East to West Aleppo in 2012, leaving us with the distorted composition of 1.5 million in west Aleppo, and 250,000 in east Aleppo.

None of this is looking at the situation through rose-coloured glasses - the opposition boycotted elections, the United Nations did not recognise them, and legitimacy is questionable in the middle of a war - but the fact still remains Assad is more popular than the forces opposed to him.

A few salient points driving the campaign to liberate Aleppo need to be made, which Fisher either glosses over or totally ignores.
  1. Terrorists use the ceasefire to regroup and resupply.
  2. Russia has concluded the U.S. is not a partner in peace and can't be trusted.
  3. The U.S. will not or cannot separate their "moderate" rebels from JFS. Even the conciliatory tones of Sergey Lavrov are starting to harden, telling the BBC in an interview: "we have more and more reasons to believe that from the very beginning the plan was to spare al-Nusra and to keep it just in case for Plan B or stage two when it would be time to change the regime."
  4. The U.S. and its Gulf State allies are arming the terrorists with even more powerful rocket launchers and anti-aircraft missiles. In these circumstances the government must take back total control of Aleppo, or it could find the city taken over by the terrorists capitalising on their new and more powerful weapons.
The blame for the collapse of the ceasefire and the escalation of armed conflict in Aleppo lies squarely at the feet of the U.S., or more accurately, the Pentagon. Ash Carter and his generals have treated cooperation with Russia with contempt.

To conclude, I agree with the words of Mike Whitney, writing for CounterPunch:
Putin has responded to Carter's escalation by escalating himself. The circle around Aleppo has closed, supply lines have been cut, the airstrikes have intensified, and the three-pronged ground assault has already begun. So while Washington may have big plans for Syria, they appear to be failing where it counts most ... on the battlefield.